COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two days after resigning as athletic director at Ohio State University, Rick Bay said he decided to announce the firing of football Coach Earle Bruce Monday because he could not lie to the school's coaches for a week.
Meanwhile, the governor of Ohio said that Bruce's handling--or lack thereof--of ex-Buckeye Art Schlichter's gambling habit long ago displeased the university president and was a major factor in Bruce's dismissal.
Bay said it was entirely his decision to announce Bruce's firing and his own resignation Monday. He said that when he met with university President Edward Jennings early Monday afternoon, Jennings told Bay that he was firing Bruce but that he did not want to announce it until after Saturday's game against Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mich.
Bay said he asked Jennings how many people knew of the firing, and Jennings said all nine members of the board of trustees knew.
"I said, 'That's 11 people who know right now,' " Bay said. "There's no way that that could be kept a secret for a week. The only honorable thing to do, I told him, was to announce it. Otherwise, we would make the press hunt us down all over the place.
"He put me in an untenable position. The coach is fired, and then he asks me not to announce it. I said, 'Ed, I can't do that. I have to go back and deal with those coaches (Bruce and his assistants) the next five days. They're very suspicious about their futures at Ohio State, and they ask me daily what lies ahead. I am not going to put myself in a position where I have to lie to their faces.' "
So, Bay said he called the press conference, where he told of the firing and his subsequent resignation.
Bay also said Wednesday that he has been in touch with the University of Michigan about the athletic director's job there.
"They contacted me," he said. "I don't know if I'd classify myself as a candidate because I'm not sure I'm going to stay in intercollegiate athletics. Maybe some other possibilities might come about."
Don Canham, Michigan's athletic director, is retiring, effective July 1, 1988.
Bay said: "I think because I'm in the profession and the possibility is that I will continue, then I certainly have to now look at a position the magnitude of Michigan's."
Bay said he is still upset by the firing of Bruce.
"What confounded the situation for his detractors is that he continued to win," Bay said. "Whoever these people are, they didn't like Earle and they had no tangible excuse to ask for his dismissal as long as he was going 9-3, going to bowl games, leading one of the top 15 teams in the nation yearly and winning Big Ten championships.
"But when he finally went 5-4-1 and lost to Wisconsin, the excuse was there. . . . It goes deeper than the record, but it is still inexcusable what happened."
According to Gov. Richard Celeste, one of the things that went beyond the record was Bruce's lack of action concerning Schlichter's gambling habit.
Celeste told the Des Moines Register that he knew for some time that Jennings intended to fire Bruce, partly because Jennings had little regard for Bruce's handling of the gambling problems Schlichter displayed while the quarterback played for Bruce and in years following.
Schlichter, who played for Bruce from 1979 to 1981, has acknowledged that he is a compulsive gambler and ran up debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars during his college career. Schlichter eventually was arrested for gambling and was banned from playing in the National Football League for a season.
Bruce is an avid fan of horse racing and acknowledges that he enjoys betting on races. He has said on several occasions that he sees nothing wrong with going to the track, particularly because such activity is legal, the Register said.
But Celeste said that Bruce's fondness for playing the horses, combined with Schlichter's gambling problem, has irritated Jennings for some time. Celeste said that relationship may not have been the immediate reason for the dismissal but was a part of Jennings' concern.
Celeste also said Bruce no longer had the support of major contributors to the school, and that members of the board of trustees didn't believe his teams could win big games.
Celeste said he learned Bruce would likely be fired more than a week before the Buckeyes lost to Iowa, 29-27, last Saturday.
Celeste said he was asked to intervene with the school's board of trustees on Bruce's behalf because he appointed six of the nine members. He said he refused because he didn't want to get involved.
He said that Jennings never had much regard for Bruce and intended to fire the coach sometime this year.